Byron Shire Council Governance Manager Ralph James.
Byron Shire Council Governance Manager Ralph James. Jay Cronan

Byron's anti-camping signs go up

BYRON Shire Council rangers have begun issuing fines for illegal street camping following the installation of no-camping signage notifying visitors at key locations.

The council's rangers have issued 20 fines in recent weeks for people illegally camped in areas where the no-camping signs have been installed, including Sommerset and Butler Streets in Byron Bay.

The council's governance manager, Ralph James, said the new signage provided rangers with a better opportunity to enforce the law and promote sustainable tourism.

"Prior to the installation of the signs, council staff could only enforce laws that limited parking to particular times of the day - this meant rangers had no ability to take action against anyone camped in a street outside the hours of 1am to 6am," he said.

"However, with signs now prohibiting camping in certain areas altogether, enforcement is not dependent on what time a vehicle is being used for camping."

According to Mr James, the new signage is targeted specifically at campers, and not at people who sleep in their vehicles due to difficult personal circumstances such as tiredness or homelessness - he insisted that no one in such circumstances had been fined.

Mr James said that by installing the no-camping signs under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW), the council was responding to concerns from some sections of the community about the impact street camping was having on residents and other visitors.

"The culture of street camping in our coastal towns has grown significantly over the years and has had an impact on residential amenity, as well as our tourism operators that offer a place for people to legitimately camp," he said.

Mr James said a report would be prepared for the August 9 council meeting asking for councillors to provide the authority for more no camping signs to be installed where and when required.

"Because the signage installed so far has been effective in regulating street camping, vehicles are moving to where there is no signage in place," he said.

"What Council staff need now is the ability to respond efficiently to street camping in other parts of the Byron Shire."
As part of the report to councillors, staff will seek endorsement to place signage at further locations including Wategos Beach, and at both the north and south approaches to Byron Bay.

Mr James said that while the signage has made enforcement by the council's four ranger staff more effective, the community should expect that some camping was likely to continue.

"The reality of council's limited resources means it is impossible to place signage everywhere, or to constantly patrol for one particular offence," he said.

"Our four rangers are responsible for patrolling the entire Byron Shire and for enforcing a multitude of different by-law breaches or other traffic infringements.

"While they will of course be working hard to do what they can, we ask for the community's patience as we devise the most effective way to regulate street camping, without creating extra costs for ratepayers."


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